Monday, July 10, 2006

Latino marketing goes mainstream

Prime-time ads break new ground by recognizing the rise of Hispanic consumers

Think back for a moment to this year's Super Bowl -- to one commercial that wasn't racy or provocative. In fact, the lack of controversy surrounding this ad is precisely why many advertisers and marketers are still talking about it.

The spot in question promoted a new Toyota Camry Hybrid and featured a father cruising on sun-dappled byways, his son strapped in the back seat. Typical car ad, right? Only the father was a Latino with a discernible accent. Their conversation played on the word hybrid: the son represented a blend of US and Hispanic cultures, the car represented a blend of fuels.

A touching idea, but five years ago, advertising executives say, it would have been unthinkable to blatantly target Hispanics in a mainstream, general market venue such as the Super Bowl. In just 30 seconds, Toyota leapt past two sticking points in corporate marketing departments across the country. The automaker rejected the prevailing wisdom that the only way to connect with Hispanics is in Spanish and through Spanish TV, radio, or print media. Toyota also discredited concerns that prime-time advertising aimed at Hispanics would rankle a non-Hispanic audience; the carmaker says it never heard from any disgruntled viewers.

The Toyota ad ``is a milestone in our industry, to say the least," says Alex Lopez Negrete, former chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and chief executive of Lopez Negrete Communications in Houston.


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